ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. Air Force researchers are asking Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, to establish a state-of-the-art facility to perform tactical machine autonomy research for future military applications.
Officials of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in Arlington, Va., announed a $90 million contract to Howard University last week to establish a Historically Black Colleges and Universities-led University Affiliated Research Center consortium to execute research in tactical autonomy that will help move research into practical applications.
Howard will form and lead a consortium of historically black colleges with engineering and technology capabilities essential to military tactical autonomy research.
Toward this goal, Howard will establish a state-of-the-art research facility; assemble a world-leading team of autonomy faculty and researchers; increase the quality and quantity of job candidates military machine autonomy; and support an ecosystem of business and government partnerships to move autonomous technologies to weapon systems such as manned and unmanned platforms.
For decades, Congress has recognized the need to develop a diverse national science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. As the largest federal research funding agency and the largest employer of federal STEM professionals, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) plays an essential role in the U.S. science and technology ecosystem and can expand opportunities to diversify the STEM workforce, Air Force researchers say.
The Howard-led machine autonomy research consortium will focus on trust in mission autonomy; collaboration between platforms; and human-machine teaming.
Goals include fostering creative autonomy research in science and engineering; enhancing early career development of outstanding STEM professionals to increase and diversify the pool of STEM talent; and increasing opportunities for universities to work with the Air Force, Space Force and DOD in science and engineering.
Howard University will establish specialized facilities for autonomy research in enhancement of multi-domain situational awareness; reduction of cognitive workload; enabling force protection; and projecting solutions at-scale and in general for decision aids, cyber security, and teams of humans and autonomous machines.
On this contract, Howard University and its consortium will do the work on their college campuses, and should be finished by January 2028.